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Four tips on how to take stunning Street photography with just one person

Updated: Jun 28, 2022


In this post (the first of the Street Photography Academy era) we are going to explain if you can get a good photograph with only one person in the frame.

During the time I have been teaching people how to photograph (or rather observe the street) I have noticed several things but the one that prevails among all of them is that

  • People don't know what or how to photograph.

It is something very normal and it has happened to all of us. My experience has taught me how to teach how to start learning.

Street Photography Academy
Four tips on how to take stunning Street photography with just one person

I have many online students from all over the world and weekly workshops in Hong Kong as well as a couple of Facebook street photography groups and in almost all cases people tend to photograph the same thing. Just one person in the frame.

Is it bad? It's not, can it be improved? Maybe it can. I say maybe because there are photographs of a single person that are unbeatable. We'll talk about them later.

Have you ever photographed a single person just because they were passing by? Did you like the result?

Read on because you'll see that you can get some great photos shooting just one person.

Photographing with long focal length lenses

I don't like the results that lenses beyond 50mm usually give (there are always exceptions of photographers who do wonders), that's why I always recommend that the lens of your camera for street photography should be from 23 to 35mm.

Photographing with a long focal lens makes everything very compact in the frame and it seems that the subjects of the photographs are trapped lacking ¨air¨ on each side where you want to look at the picture.

Add to these lenses the typical pictures that beginners usually take and the result is quite bad. But what are those pictures that beginners often take?

  • Street performer (Singing, juggling, mime...)

  • Beggar asking for money

  • A lady or a gentleman walking by

  • Etc...

These are avoidable scenes in street photography, remember that you have to photograph differently than the rest of the mortals and photographing street artists, poor people or a lady passing by has zero merit but if you also photograph them with a long focal length lens the result is worthless.

Tip number one.

Change your lens and try to cover a wider scene in your photograph.


Focus on expressions or someone out of the ordinary.

Street Photography lessons
Four tips on how to take stunning Street photography with just one person

As we have said before we have to try to shoot different from the rest of the mortals, avoid doing what everyone else would do (and what beginners do) which is to shoot randomly just in case you get lucky, most good photographs have something contrasting within the image, two or more people, subject/object, etc... and that is not going to give us a photograph with one person, so we should therefore focus on:

Expressions: I am talking about expressions that attract attention, that have humour, intrigue, strength, that suggest fear, pleasure, that make us think about the before and after of the moment when the photograph was taken.

Someone or something out of the ordinary: I always like to include this someone or something out of the ordinary in the expressions of the point above.

You can see a man dressed as a bride and it is probably something out of the ordinary (I haven't seen many) but if the expression is not to be photographed you know that you are not going to take advantage of what could have been a good photo.

What photo would you like to take? A man dressed as a bride who seems to be posing smiling at the camera or that same man smoking with an angry face and crying? Probably the second photo is more powerful.

Tip number 2: Look for expressions of surprise, anger, joy and/or someone out of the ordinary.



It's easier to find geometry than moments

Street Photography Academy
Four tips on how to take stunning Street photography with just one person